Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Social Sustainability, Climate Resilience and Community-Based Urban Development: What about the People?

Cathy Baldwin, Robin King




Social Sustainability, Climate Resilience and Community-Based Urban Development argues that built environments implemented according to a socially aware planning process can support pro-community behaviours that (1) contribute to daily social sustainability and (2) help strengthen climate resilience. The book explores the relationship between the urban built environment and the positive behaviours and psychological responses that benefit communities and the individuals that constitute them. It places emphasis not only on the physical structures that influence community resilience, but also on the contribution from strong social networks and social cohesion.

The book analyses 21 case studies from 14 countries, including India, South Africa, the UK, the USA, New Zealand and Thailand. The various case studies explore initiatives from the various countries on housing, public space and transport stops, public participation and responses to natural disasters. The qualitative analyses of these case studies illuminate nine pro-community behavioural and psychological attributes of a socially sustainable and resilient community:

1) Connections and affective attachments to the neighbourhood and community

2) Social interactions with neighbours/in the neighbourhood

3) Feelings of safety and security

4) Residential stability

5) Proactive participation in collective group activities and affairs

6) Social cohesion

7) Social solidarity/community spirit

8) Happiness and wellbeing

9) Voice, influence and civic empowerment

The book’s analyses of pro-community behaviours and psychological dimensions draw heavily on the works of Coutts et al. (2007) and Grootaert and van Bastelar (2001), employing their various concepts and indicators of social capital, including cognitive, structural, bonding, bridging, horizontal and vertical social capital.

In Chapter 7, the book introduces a four-stage socially aware planning process for urban development and suggests various approaches, methods and tools that can be employed over these four stages. To accomplish this, the chapter explores nine urban projects from Cape Town, Belfast, Southern England, Rio de Janeiro, Portland, Manchester, Christchurch, Yala and Delhi – mapping these to each of the four stages of urban development. The socially aware planning process incorporates principles from Social Impact Assessment and Health Impact Assessment. The four stages and recommended actions for development teams are summarized in Table 7.1 (page 60).

In Chapter 10, the book concludes with a preliminary action agenda of recommendations to adopt in policies, plans, programmes and projects for sustainability and resilience.


Further reading:

Archer, D, C Luansang and S Boonmahathanakorn (2012), “Facilitating community mapping and planning for citywide upgrading: the role of community architects”, Environment and Urbanization Vol 24, No 1, pages 115–129, available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0956247812437132.

Coutts, A, P Ramos Pinto, B Cave and I Kawachi (2007), Social Capital Indicators in the UK: A Research Project for the Commission of Racial Equality, Ben Cave Associates and Commissions for Racial Equality, Leeds and London.

Grootaert, C and T van Bastelaer (2001), “Understanding and measuring social capital: a synthesis of findings and recommendations from the Social Capital Initiative”, Social Capital Initiative Working Paper 24, World Bank Social Development Family, Washington, DC, available at https://www.academia.edu/15493832/UNDERSTANDING_AND_MEASURING_SOCIAL_CAP....


Book note prepared by Kate Goh

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